Sayed Azam-Ali graduated in Plant Biology from the University of Wales, Bangor in 1979. He then joined the ODA Tropical Microclimatology Unit at the University of Nottingham as a research student. His research in Niger, West Africa, Hyderabad, central India and in controlled-environments in Nottingham, UK, investigated the resilience of tropical crops to heat and drought stress. He was awarded a PhD in Environmental Physics in 1983 and, after a brief postdoctoral appointment, joined the staff of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) India as Groundnut Physiologist.
In 1988, he returned to Nottingham where he established the Tropical Crops Research Unit at the Sutton Bonington Campus to conduct controlled-environment and field research on environmental factors limiting the growth of crops in hostile, tropical environments. His team has coordinated transdisciplinary research at Nottingham with field studies in Africa and Asia that have encompassed climate change impacts on tropical crops, assessing underutilised species, evaluating nitrogen fixation in non-legumes, linking molecular and participatory approaches for breeding objectives, measuring water and nitrogen use efficiencies and modelling rainwater harvesting technologies. His background in plant physiology and environmental physics and experience in three continents has allowed him to link field and controlled-environment research on tropical crops with growers, consumers and other interested stakeholders. He became Professor of Tropical Agronomy in 2006.
In 2008, he was appointed as Vice-Provost (Research and Internationalisation) at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. In August 2011, he became the first Chief Executive Officer of the Crops for the Future Research Centre (CFFRC). Based near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, CFFRC is the first-of-its-kind global centre with the mandate for research and development on underutilised plants for food and non-food uses. CFFRC has access to a vast reservoir of indigenous and underutilised plant species and related knowledge systems, many of which can contribute to food and nutritional security, income generation and bridging the urban-rural divide both in terms of knowledge and development. Through a programme of integrated activities, CFFRC conducts fundamental and applied research, scoping and policy studies and develop marketable outputs that provide improved opportunities and products for growers, consumers and wider stakeholders, especially in developing regions of the world.
Sayed Azam-Ali also holds the Chair in Global Food Security at the University of Nottingham.
Sayed is a cricket and football enthusiast and dedicated supporter of Crystal Palace who he endeavours to watch whenever he is in the UK.